The judge who presided over the corruption trial of former State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo roundly rejected Fumo's bid for a new trial yesterday, saying the evidence was "more than sufficient" to support the sweeping convictions in the case.
In a 128-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter refused to throw out the jury verdict or grant a new trial to Fumo, who was found guilty on 137 counts, or his codefendant, Ruth Arnao, who was found guilty on 45 counts.
The judge said he found "nothing to support any" of the challenges raised by either Fumo or Arnao in a "case of considerable complexity" that had "resulted in multiple grave convictions" against both of them.
Buckwalter's decision set the stage for Fumo's sentencing, which is scheduled for July 14. Fumo's lead defense attorney, Dennis J. Cogan, declined to comment on the ruling, as did Assistant U.S. Attorney John J. Pease.
Under federal sentencing guidelines, prosecutors said last week, Fumo could face a prison term of 21 to 27 years, though the guidelines are advisory and Buckwalter could impose a shorter sentence.
Fumo, 66, a once-powerful Democrat in Philadelphia and Harrisburg, was found guilty in March of conspiracy, fraud, obstructing justice, and tax violations.
The jury found that he defrauded the state Senate by getting employees to do personal and political work on state time and defrauded a nonprofit, Citizens' Alliance for Better Neighborhoods, by getting it to pay for everything from expensive paint and vacuum cleaners to farm equipment and luxury vehicles he used.
Fumo also was convicted of defrauding the Independence Seaport Museum by getting free trips on yachts provided by the museum.
Arnao, the former head of Citizens' Alliance, was found guilty on counts mostly focusing on the fraud against the nonprofit. Her sentencing is scheduled for July 21.
Buckwalter said that there was a "wealth of evidence" of Fumo's scheme to defraud the Senate, and that Fumo and Arnao "treated Citizens' Alliance's bank accounts as their own."
The judge said prosecutors had proven that Fumo and Arnao "repeatedly and persistently" used Citizens' Alliance assets for their personal benefit, causing a loss of more than $1 million to the nonprofit.
Buckwalter also rejected defense arguments that he should have dismissed a juror who had posted Facebook and Twitter messages during the trial, saying they were "nothing more than harmless rumblings having no prejudicial effect."
In 1981, Fumo got a completely different decision at a similar legal juncture: He won acquittal after he was convicted in October 1980 of mail fraud.
In that case, Fumo and two codefendants were accused of scheming to put Democratic Party workers in "no-show" jobs on the state payroll.
But U.S. District Judge Clifford Scott Green overturned the 1980 jury convictions in response to defense posttrial motions for acquittal or a new trial. Green said prosecutors had failed to prove a case against them. Fumo quickly returned to his Senate duties.